'I don't envy young players trying to break in' - the dual player life becoming more difficult

Hannah Looney says she can see younger dual players struggling to make the breakthrough.

CORK DUAL STAR Hannah Looney says dividing one’s commitments between two codes is becoming more difficult for the younger generation, and that players are “struggling” to make the breakthrough.

hannah-looney Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Looney is one of the most high profile dual players in the country. At club level, she plays football for Aghada and is a camogie player with the Killeagh club.

She lined out at midfield for the Cork in their Division 1 final defeat to Dublin last month, as well as their narrow championship opener win over Meath last weekend.

Tomorrow, she’ll be back with the county camogs for their All-Ireland championship bow against Dublin in Páirc Ui Rinn.

Effective communication and co-operation between the camogie and Ladies football divisions in Cork enables Looney to keep all her plates spinning in the air, but she can see that the younger dual players are experiencing difficulties in trying to keep the balance.

“I guess I’m just fortunate that I have the couple of years under my belt,” she said at the launch of the All-Ireland camogie championships.

“I don’t envy young players trying to break in. I guess early on in my career, I would have been primarily focused on camogie which I think probably stood to me. And now I’m in a position where I can do both pretty well.

“I was definitely out every night of the week bar Mondays. Fortunately, that’s not really the case at the moment. It’s probably about four times a week between training and matches. It’s really important to take the down time when I have it if I want to perform at my best in both.”

“Football management communicate with camogie management and they allow me to figure out what’s best week to week to get the best out of me. It is full on and the most important thing I’ve learned over the years is I really need to put myself first. It’s not possible for me to be training five our six times a week.

“I just need to be more cautious to kind of let people know how I’m feeling. If I don’t want to train a certain night for a certain reason, people can understand that and that’s great.

“I guess early on, I probably wouldn’t have done that and probably would have just thrown myself into everything. I’ve noticed I get more out of myself when I’m a bit more conscious of how I’m feeling and my time.”

Dual players are affected by controversy almost every year. Fixture clashes are the most common issue that interferes with their species, and often forces players to line out for both teams in short time-frames.

In some cases, they are playing two inter-county games in the space of just a few hours.

The dual player came under threat again in 2021 due to the format which was proposed for the camogie season. A controversial plan adopting an inter-county/club/inter-county model was set to be implemented in 2021.

However, this recommendation faced a major backlash due to the impact it would have on dual players. The Camogie Association then polled its members to decide which direction the season would take, with 53% of the membership voting for a split season and thus sparing the dual player.

“Sometimes I just kind of want to bury my head and just hope it will sort itself out and it usually does in the end,” says Looney when asked about the frustrations that come with these controversial incidents.

“I will be grateful to the Camogie Association and LGFA for constantly trying to improve their communication. That’s definitely improved over the last couple of years so that has made things a lot easier.

“I noticed that when I do get involved in it, it only puts stress on me and affects me playing and training.

“I’ve tried to leave it to management, county boards and associations. That’s probably the best thing to do and I’m fortunate that it is getting better and we are going in the right direction.

launch-of-the-2021-all-ireland-camogie-championships Hannah Looney attending the launch of the 2021 All-Ireland championship. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I just is a bit different when you’re in a dual county and it’s so possible to play football and camogie for Cork and that’s something I’m really grateful for. When you look at Dublin at the moment where football seems to be a lot more dominant.

“I’ve been in contact with a couple of girls who just chose football because they don’t have a choice. Dublin football are in that position where they’re more dominant than camogie.

“That’s kind of disheartening to see on the wider picture. My opinion is if players want to play both, they should be facilitated.”

That all being said, Hooney is proud of her dual player status. The friendships she has developed in both circles lightens the burden for her. She also has the advantage of having a second sport to turn to whenever she suffers defeat in the first.

“I don’t really have time to dwell on losses,” she says, explaining how she always has another outlet to help her refocus after a disappointment.

Looking further down at the line at whether the dual player can continue to survive at inter-county level, she replies:

“It kind of frustrates me when the lads are like, ‘Nah’. It’s not a thing at all. I’m like, ‘Well you should leave it to the women as per usual.’

“It does frustrate me when you hear of men at minor or U20 being put in positions to choose and stick with the one route. It’s only the counties that are losing out at the end of the day.

“I don’t know how much more possible it is. I see the younger girls struggling a bit more breaking in. As I said, maybe starting out it’s harder. You want to break into one team so you want to give it your all, but that’s probably the approach it should go.

“Maybe, when you’re 18 or 19, try to break into one team. Have that and break into the other team, and communication and management supporting you really helps.”

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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